An Anniversary and a Convention Cold…. I know I should wait ’til next month for this announcement, but I found out just yesterday from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database that November 1979 marks the first fan column I ever published in Amazing magazine, the print version. My column was titled “Fans, Prose and Cons”—a somewhat obvious three-way pun. That means it’s been 34 years since I started writing for this magazine. Does that make me old? I don’t feel old. Heck, I hardly feel mature. (That’s a freebie. Don’t expect me to give you straight lines like that every week.) If my columns (now blog entries—but I think I’m gonna keep on calling them columns from now on) had been continuous, I’d probably be the Grand Old Man of Amazing. I still keep in touch with my editor—those were the post-Ted White days—on Facebook. Ain’t the interwebz wonderful? At a Norwescon or VCON in 1980 or 1981, I was told Ted White was looking for me—I felt flattered beyond measure that Ted even knew who I was—only to find out that he just wanted to see if I was a real person. He figured “Fahnestalk” was a cheesy pseudonym for writing a fan column (“Fans talk”), and didn’t really care about me or my column. Deflated again!
On to VCON; this year marks the 38th consecutive year VCON has occurred. Not a bad record, I think. I had great plans before the con to document as much of the convention as I could physically get to, and write a column all about how fan-run cons (as opposed to those big commercial things) are put on, but Nature—he said ominously—Had Other Plans For Me. My wife is a professional SF/Fantasy artist (which means she can’t earn a living just doing SF/F art—ask just about any professional artist in our field) and was entered into the art show, so we had to arrive on Thursday to set up. (She’s also second-in-command at the VCON Art Show/Gallery, so she had to help other people get set up.) So we were prepared for a long Thursday night, which indeed we got: it took from 8p.m. (we were latecomers) until 11:30p.m. until we could consider our work was done for the night. Rose Wilson, the Gallery head, was there most of the night, just as an example of how much work it takes to put on a con. I had a bit of a raspy throat on Thursday; no big deal.
Friday morning we were supposed to arrive early, so we got there somewhere around 9a.m. so Lynne could begin helping at the Art Show/Gallery. Lynne spent most of Friday, until I could tear her away for dinner, at the Art Show. I wandered around the con, meeting old friends and getting increasingly hoarse. I went to the Artists’ Alley and the Dealers’ Room, but I didn’t attend any programming, figuring I could do that on Saturday. Because of copyright restrictions, I can’t show much in the way of photos of the Art Show, but here’s one at teardown. We had a gigantic room with, I think, about 30 artists present. Artwork ranged from my wife’s “robots” made of “found” objects (she calls them ‘bots) to some gigantic and very luminous abstract computer artwork on aluminum by David Miller, to Art GOH Thyrza Segal’s weird and tiny aliens in dioramas. The artists ranged from about 12 years old to the mid-‘60s; media included watercolour, oils, various kinds of mixed media, to various forms of glass—Heike Kapp’s glass marbles seemed to hold entire worlds. William Lee did a series of dioramas—all lit up with LEDs—to illustrate a story; several young people seemed captivated. The Artists’ Reception (complete with star- and spaceship-shaped sugar cookies) was held Friday night.
Saturday I felt a bit feverish and was pretty hoarse; I was worried because Tam Gordy and I were planning to do a Beatles sing-along Saturday night, which we’ve done at every con we’ve been together at for 30-plus years, aided by such luminaries as Spider Robinson and Judith Merril, plus our guitar wizard friend Randy Reichardt from Edmonton whenever possible, as well as whomever else wants to join in. I had brought both my 6-string and 12-string guitars for that purpose, plus a big bag full of Beatles music books, song sheets, and percussion instruments. (We don’t just do Beatles; we’ve ranged from folk to rock to Tom Lehrer to filk. It can get pretty crazy when you throw a bunch of musicians into our mix. Ask Larry Niven—he seemed to have a great time a couple of years ago!). True story: at the WorldCon in Winnipeg (ConAdian) a number of years ago, we were singing in the hotel outside the auditorium where the Hugos were being awarded—there was Spider, Randy, Tam, me, Judy Merril, Rose Wilson, and several other people—and they sent someone out to tell us to be quieter. (Judy, bless her heart, had a couple of interesting suggestions as to where they could go, but we eventually returned to full volume.) Anyway, because of my cold and fever, I didn’t go to any programming on Saturday, either, and ended up skipping the music entirely and going to bed early for the first time in 30 years on Saturday night at a con. Poor, poor, pitiful me, as the song says.
Meanwhile, the Art Show and Gallery was going full blast; I hung around there a lot and watched my wife, the lovely and talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, do a demo on how to build a ‘bot. Melissa Mary Duncan, who will be the AGOH (Art Guest of Honour) at next year’s VCON, which will also be the Canadian National Convention, or Canvention, did a demonstration on how to do a painting from scratch. I did get a shot of the finished ‘bot, which was auctioned at a silent charity auction, but never saw the finished piece by Melissa—whenever I came back, she was a little more finished, but oh, well. The ‘bot demo was done with audience participation; I’m glad the Art Show was more interactive than before, and the audience seemed to enjoy it. Another artist, Gunilla, did an oil painting on Saturday as well.
Saturday afternoon, I was asked, as has happened several times before, to be one of the judges for the Art Show; I’m pretty knowledgeable about SF/Fantasy art, having been an enthusiast since the 1950s—and I know a good number of artists in the field, both professional and amateur—but my wife has always absented herself from the judging because of my judging. This year, she didn’t, so I determined to abstain from any vote that might involve awarding her a ribbon so as to avoid any appearance of favoritism. The other judges were AGOHs John Kovalic and Thyrza Segal. We awarded such ribbons as “Best Use of Colour,” “Best Black & White,” “Most Humerous” (yes, that’s deliberate, as in “funny bone”) and so on. The two artists on their own hook decided to award Lynne the “Best 3D” ribbon while I abstained from voting on that one. Nancie Green, who has done some stunning giclée-on-canvas digital prints, got the “Best Body of Work” ribbon. Also, a co-worker of Lynne’s wrote an article on her ‘bots and Heike Kapp’s marbles for the local Russian-language newspaper “Vancouver Express,” though they transliterated her name with only two syllables, and our last name has three!
Sunday, I was up and around at about 9a.m., though I felt like staying in bed. By this time my cold was in full flush, and I was coughing and croaking like a frog. I have been the art auctioneer at VCON for a number of years, and was afraid that I might have to pass on this year, but by the time the auction rolled around I was able—because the auction was in a very small program room—to talk for the entire two to two and a half hours it took to auction the art, assisted by first-time art runner Tony Hoffman, who has been a buyer in years past but seemed to relish this new role! Although the convention was down in number of attendees as far as I understand, we seemed to be able to sell a fair amount of art both at the show and at the auction. I managed to have a good time at VCON, despite the cold—which is with me even as I write, though thankfully the worst of the coughing and sneezing appears to be over! Next year, with Canvention, our Art Show promises to be bigger and better than ever.
As always, I look forward to whatever comment you have to make about this column. You can register and comment here on the Amazing Stories website, or you can comment on Facebook. ‘Til next week, then!
“Although the convention was down in number of attendees… ”
Actually, by the end of the con it was clear our numbers were up over last year by nearly 100 attendees. A total of 799 people came to VCON 38. This bodes well for next year as it continues a trend of incremental increases over the past few years.
Another good sign was the sheer number of young people attending. This indicates we are becoming more successful at spreading the word about VCON, and even better, are developing a reservoir of future volunteers and, dare I say it, future ConCom members.
You and I, as aging veterans, may soon (In another decade or so) bow out of active VCON duty and just sit around in the Hospitality Suite receiving the accolades and reverential awe of our replacements, or, at the very least, taking up space. An SFnal sorta thing to do.
Thank you for your hard work every year! My son got to see you at work during the auction this year, and was duly impressed. He’s a fan!
I was blown away by the variety of amazing art at the show this year. Lynne’s robots were incredible, and it was wonderful to simply walk around and take it all in. I think it unfortunately suffered from being far from the rest of the convention, but I look forward to next year’s!
Slight correction: VCON 39’s AGOH is David Mattingly; Melissa is the Canvention AGOH, I believe. VCON’s author GOH will be David Weber, and Canvention’s is Tarol Hunt. Hope that’s all I messed up.